Bronchoscopy is the visual examination of the air passages leading into the lungs. The exam is done with a bronchoscope, a long, thin tube with a camera on the tip.
Reasons for Procedure
Bronchoscopy is most often done for the following reasons:
- Diagnose a lung disease or infection
- Examine obstructions and secretions
- Obtain a tissue sample, called a biopsy
- Obtain a secretion sample
- Investigate the source of a persistent cough or blood that is being coughed up
- Check for a foreign object that may have accidentally been inhaled rather than swallowed
Problems from the procedure are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will review potential problems, like:
- Reaction to anesthesia
- Collapsed lung
- Irregular heart rate
- Sore and swollen throat
Before your procedure, talk to your doctor about ways to manage factors that may increase your risk of complications such as:
- Chronic disease such as diabetes or obesity
What to Expect
Prior to Procedure
Your doctor may do some or all of the following:
- Physical exam
- Blood tests
- CT scan
Talk to your doctor about your medications. You may be asked to stop taking some medications up to one week before the procedure.
Leading up to your procedure:
- Arrange for a ride to and from the procedure.
- The night before, eat a light meal. Do not eat or drink anything after midnight.
Local anesthetic will be given to numb the throat. It will also help to prevent coughing and gagging. Sometimes, a bronchoscopy is done under general anesthesia. In this case, you will be asleep.
Description of the Procedure
The bronchoscope is a long, thin tube. It will be inserted through the nose or mouth. The scope will be passed down the throat and into the lungs.
The scope sends an image of the lung tissue to a monitor. The images and the scope may be used to remove a small tissue sample. If a foreign body is present, it may be removed through the scope. If a lavage is planned, a water solution may be used to wash an area. The solution is then removed and sent to a lab for examination.
Immediately After Procedure
The removed tissue or secretions will be sent to a lab for examination.
How Long Will It Take?
Less than 1 hour.
How Much Will It Hurt?
Anesthesia prevents pain during the procedure. You may feel a tugging sensation when the doctor removes a tissue sample. You may also have some breathing difficulty or shortness of breath during the procedure.
Expect some soreness in your throat and hoarseness for a few days after the procedure. Any discomfort after the procedure can be managed with medications.
At the Care Center
Right after the procedure, the staff may:
- Take an x-ray of your lungs.
- Encourage you to sip water. You will gradually progress to solid foods.
When you return home, do the following to help ensure a smooth recovery:
- If you had to stop medications before the procedure, ask your doctor when you can start again.
- Be sure to follow your doctor's instructions.
You may be given a report after the sedative wears off and you are alert. It may take a few days to receive results from a biopsy. It may take up to six weeks for findings from a tuberculosis test. Ask your doctor when to expect your results.
Call Your Doctor
After arriving home, contact your doctor if any of the following occurs:
- Signs of infection, including fever and chills
- Cough, shortness of breath, or chest pain
- Coughing up more than a teaspoon of blood
- Severe nausea or vomiting
- Increased or unusual stridor, which is a noisy sound that is heard when breathing
- Pain that you cannot control with the medications you have been given
If you think you have an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.